New lessons of Reckless Love

Reflections on our review of 2014...

We started the year expecting to continue the "reckless love" theme in our lives that God had started in our hearts towards adoption years before. We had assumed that theme would be applied to the struggles of bringing a new family member in the mix and recklessly loving him until he understood what it was like to be part of a family and how it felt to be loved day in and day out. Turns out, God didn't teach us how to love that way. Not yet anyway.  This past year, He taught us how to apply it in every aspect of life. To recklessly love people. All of them. To be involved in our community and church Biblically - having people in our home as much as possible, loving them through the hard times, inviting them to love us through our hard times, celebrating victories together, and serving when all we felt like doing was laying in bed and crying.

Looking back, I can already say how grateful I am for 2014. I wouldn't want to relive it. I am glad it is over. But we are not the same people we were in January of 2014. God has taught us how to be a more transparent and vulnerable with others, and He has given us a picture of what true Biblical community is all about.  It hasn't been easy to let people hurt with us, but we are forever grateful for those who willingly have.  It's never easy to enter into other people's hurts either, but we are thankful for what God has taught us through it and prayerful we can do better at this in 2015.

Most of all, we are thankful for a God who was willing to enter into our pain over 2,000 years ago.  For a God who completely understood the messiness and pain of sin and this world, but entered into it anyways.  It is only through this ultimate example of reckless love in Christ, that we have any hope for the future.  And so we look forward to 2015 with much anticipation and hope ... not necessarily for what we think God will do, but because of what He has already done.

2014: A year in review

2014. Wow. It was time for you to go. This was the hardest year I remember. The only year I remember struggles of not even feeling God near-just feeling complete silence of feeling forgotten and alone. It was a hard year as a friend, sister, daughter, mom, wife, home maker, hopeful adoptive mom-just all of it. When I started to look back on the year-I just thought of all those laundry piles left out and family moving further away and all those tears that fell.  I struggled with the feeling of complete lack of peace saying goodbye to 2014. I knew in my heart there were good parts but so much of it just felt hard. My mind was clouded and all I could remember was the parts I didn't like as much. So I made myself go through all the pictures and many emails of the last year. To let myself feel it and see all the good that was there. Turns out, there was a lot of good and smiles and living room dance parties. I just needed to be reminded. God used this year. My goodness He did. And we're just beginning to see it. To see the change in our spiritual maturity from January 2014 to January 2015. To see the change in our ability to find hope in Christ alone. Not in an adoption email coming that day or good behavior from my kids or laundry being done. In Christ alone.

January 2014
We spent time falling in love with pictures we had received of Gideon in December, hopeful we had just spent our last holiday season as a family of four. Both sets of Grandparents and my sister and her family came in town to help us install new flooring and play with our kids at the hotel pool to keep them away from work being done at the house. It was also our last few weeks at the school our church had met in the last few years. I forgot until looking back-but now I remember how scary that felt. To leave all we had gotten used to as a church to merge with another church was intimidating. It was a constant prayer that it would go smoothly and God would be glorified in it. 

February 2014 
It is hard to even talk about without wanting to tear up and get angry at the same time. I turned 30-which was good and completely separate from all of those emotions. Then, February 11... So many parts that I can't yet talk about but one thing I am forever grateful for not just the real life friends that held us close-but the 'sisterhood of strength' that began February 12. One of my (now) dear friends wrote about it here.

March 2014 
Addilyn turned 5 and we had a great time remembering how much she's changed in the last 5 years and how much she fills our days with happiness. Our kids were both old enough to enjoy the warmer weather and explore and we soaked it up. We spent a lot of March praying through Psalms 10 over our adoption. We decided to hire a private investigator to research Gideon's story with the main purpose of Psalm 10:18: You will bring justice to the orphans and the oppressed, so mere people can no longer terrify them. We prayed and prayed that justice would be done and Gideon's family would be found so they could be reunited. If he could be loved in his home country with his birth family - that's what we wanted. It was a confusing time though - even trying just to keep track of where he was or if he had been moved to a different orphanage was truly a full time job that we had no control over. Bitterness over the evil done through our adoption agency attempted to take over my heart. I was so angry that people could be so terrible. That we were tricked. Thankfully, God allowed close friendships who saw that and helped me pray through it and allow change. 

April 2014
This month brought a second and in-depth private investigation and once it was completed - a new agency (who is known for amazing ethics!) willing to accept our adoption case and help us complete it because they found with our private investigation last month and theirs this month - Gideon truly needed a family to love and care for him. Looking back - I feel like we lived years of lifetimes February-April. But April brought the ability to start our monthly updates through our new agency and we got to see how much our boy had grown. April brought lots of rain (figuratively and in reality) but we began to learn to dance in the rain a bit. Josiah helped a lot. Addilyn continued to find beauty in everything she saw. We made new close friendships and began consistent date night trade-off's. Josiah loved 'helping'.

May 2014 
We finally met our cousin Mathias - home from Ethiopia just days before our agency shut down - a true miracle at home. We were all so excited to meet him and celebrate his first birthday home! We also hadn't been to Texas since Candace and Justin had moved so it was fun seeing their new home and seeing where Judy and KC were moving to. It was a great family time and fun to celebrate time together before we came back to Missouri-far far away from them. Addilyn finished preschool and from her pictures - changed a TON in the last year. Josiah became QUITE the story teller. I ran my first 5k with one of my best friends. Derrick ran it too - it just wasn't his first and he's much faster ;). 

June 2014 
We saw Gideon's smile for the first time! It was so encouraging to see - even at a time when paperwork wasn't moving and we had no idea when the next step would be done. We had some great dates and had WONDERFUL time with friends. God truly blessed us so very much with new (and old) friends. I can't believe all the good God brought through them and our church at the time. 

July 2014 
We added another cousin to the mix - and the kids and I got to be there to see her just newly born and play with all the other cousins (and aunts and uncles) at Grannie and Pops before Uncle Daniel, Aunt Katie, and the girls moved. While we're super excited for them - we hated seeing them go so far away.  Josiah turned 3!! His birthday party was filled with new friends from the last year - we're amazed of who God brought to be in our lives for this season. He loves everything outside, most things with balls, and nearly all animals. While seeing truly great friends for our kids truly blessed our hearts - God allowing us to be surrounded by wonderful, Godly friends for our kids AND US amazed us. We continued to get monthly updates on Gideon - but were also getting nearly weekly poor health updates. He had something different every week - while we were so glad he was in an orphanage that noticed his illnesses and treated them - it's still hard to get emails of your kid being sick and being unable to do anything to help them. 

August 2014
Addilyn and Josiah took a road trip to Grannie and Pops house by themselves! They both did really well (we weren't sure how Josiah would do...)! While they were gone - we learned we were finally ready to submit our PAIR paperwork! We were hopeful this meant Gideon home in 2014. Our family decided to homeschool Addilyn for her kindergarten year. Kindergarten camp over the summer didn't go well and knowing our girl's strengths and weaknesses and ours as parents as well, as a year full of change - we felt like it was just a great year to spend as much time together as possible. The kids and I went to a donut shop to celebrate Gideon's first birthday. When we got in the car after eating donuts and talking about all we'll do when Gideon comes home - I got the email that after just two weeks in the PAIR process - we passed the first phase! Gideon coming home before Thanksgiving just became possible! We were told to prepare for a court date and travel in October when courts re-opened after the rainy season closure. 

September 2014 
We began a truly crazy busy season. We had activities every night and things every weekend. It was busy (something that is typically not our family's favorite) and completely wonderful. We went camping as a family for the first time with our homeschool co-op and some wonderful friends. Our kids started homeschool co-op classes and Addilyn started Upward Cheerleading. Derrick took time to be with us and making fall memories to the apple orchard with us. We began trying to explain the next steps of our adoption in preparation of court re-opening in October and (hopefully) getting a quick court date. 
October 2014 
The busy season continued. Cheerleading, homeschooling, homeschool co-op (those days were completely exhausting...), trips to Grannie and Pops and to Pops' Pumpkin Patch, Grandma and Papa's first visit since moving to Texas and a date day for us! We continued to wait once court re-opened - with no explanation why. We were still told to prepare to be ready to go to Ethiopia quickly. 

November 2014 
New pictures of Gideon came in - with a ball! A volleyball! They were truly encouraging. We had a family trip to the zoo - where the kids checked the map next to every animal to see where the animals were originally from and how close that was to Gideon. We found out that the Ethiopian government requested some updated paperwork to process our case - so we went to the secretary of state's office twice to get our notary certified before having our paperwork mailed to Washington DC for more steps and eventually translated. We celebrated Thanksgiving with Derrick's family in KS. It was probably my hardest waiting adoptive momma day. It was super emotional and even Josiah got upset at one point saying "this is NOT a family adventure. We are not a family yet. Gideon isn't here." The ache to have him home and realization with the new paperwork requests that our son wouldn't be home in 2014 ... it was heartbreaking. 

December 2014 
The kids were old enough to play in snow BY THEMSELVES while I stayed in and watched them with coffee in hand. It was glorious. And, quite necessary, as Derrick had just gotten home from having hernia surgery and couldn't move, Josiah was sick with upper respiratory stuff the week before and now hyped up on steroids, and then we all came down with the stomach flu at the same time. Whew. It was rough. Everyone was sick. No one was sleeping. And Daddy was out of commission. We made it though and then celebrated a Christmas together. During that time (just weeks ago...) it felt like I had completely failed. Even advent stuff didn't get done daily. There was piles of laundry on the couch every single day (still is actually). Someone cried everyday. We struggled to feel excitement over celebrating Christ's birth because of the adoption still in the exact same place since July ... everyone being sick and cranky... But, I think it truly helped us understand advent. It helped us grasp what true waiting on Christ is. The week before Christmas our church had a family prayer night set-up with a live nativity theme. I loved it. The kids understood it. They wanted to talk about all the characters and understanding the story more. At Awanas, they had a Christmas store to use the Awana-bucks (the reward for memorizing verses, etc) at to buy Christmas presents for their family members. Both kids were beaming and so very excited that they were able to get gifts for people they loved. They couldn't wait to pass out their gifts and show people they loved them. So, while I felt like I messed up Christmas being a terrible mom without follow through on traditions or with traditions being 'ruined' by cranky children crying and whining through them...They got it. We had a great Christmas because they knew Whose day it was.  

Romans 12:12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, 

faithful in prayer.

Our feelings on lessons learned and saying goodbye to 2014 in our next blog.



Summertime Update
It's been a busy summer-with few blog updates. A few big things (and lots of little things) have happened this summer and of course I have too many pictures of them all-so here's the quick summer recap through pictures. 

The cousin count went up this summer! Aunt Maggie had baby Caitlyn and her cousins can't get enough of her!

The cousins got lots of time together this summer before the Potts' moved to Michigan. It was so fun to see them all together. I love that they get to experience story time with their Great Grandpa. 

This little dude turned THREE. It's amazing how much he's grown and changed in the last few months. His favorite things are trains, tractors, farm animals, and balls. He's super sweet, cuddly, and loving while at the same time he LOVES to annoy and pester. This summer has been a huge blessing for him-he's made several new friends through our church that love to run, play, and throw things as much as he does. 

Their daddy loves them so well
He's obsessed with popsicles. And story telling. He's been so fun to watch and see change this summer. He is beginning to truly fit into his 'big brother' title well. Josiah is obsessed with babies and has already volunteered to help change diapers when Gideon gets home. He talks a lot about sharing his room with Gideon and prays for him daily.
This girl prefers only wearing 'beautiful' clothes. She loves sparkly things, jewelry, and butterflies. She also loves playing in the mud and getting filthy equally as much. I adore her.

Addilyn and Josiah went to Grannie and Pops house without Mom and Dad this summer. I took this picture right before they walked out the door and the kids were starting to get a little nervous. But, they were nearly tear free and did a great job with Grannie and Pops. When I met Grannie to get the kids back-Addilyn cried for a good long time about leaving Grannie and Pops. 

We've started getting bits and pieces of our house ready for Gideon. It felt impossible to even considering these things would get worn/used and just the sight of them used to bring tears. Now, I excitedly wait to see my two boys together in those matching pi's and clothes. God is truly doing miracles for this boy and our family.

This summer has been a summer full of time with friends and my girl learning how to mix old and new friends together  well. 

The day we were unsure would happen: our PAIR file has been sent off. This stack of papers grew after I took this picture but this is the police reports, birth certificate, multiple private investigations, medical paperwork/ explanations, and lots of personal paperwork of Gideon's story. Right now it is at the National Benefits Center getting checked and double checked-they will decide to either make a request for more evidence (RFE) on a specific part of Gideon's story or send it to the US Embassy in Ethiopia where they will check it as well and could also request more evidence. Once all of those steps are done-we will be issued a court date and will make travel plans to get to Ethiopia. This will not happen before October as courts are closed until then-hopefully shortly after though! After our court date-it usually takes about a month until we will have all the necessary paperwork (passport, medicals, etc) and Gideon will be cleared to come home!

These two love summer fun. Pools, splash parks, big slip and slides-they love it all. 
After teaching in the public school system for years before staying home and falling in love with Addilyn's preschool through the school district last year, we've made a choice I've never thought we'd make. We've spent much of the summer praying and thinking through all the positives and negatives of every schooling option and we've decided that we will be homeschooling this year. We don't know if it'll be just for this year-or for multiple years but it is most definitely the right choice for our daughter (and our entire family) this year and we are SO very excited to see all the fun we have learning together. 


"And we won't be here in preschool anymore"

She finished preschool. She only ever wore this cap and gown for pictures (just so you know...that gives me a terrible lice phobia. They put the hat on all the kids heads for pictures!). But it's adorable just the same. Her favorite song of her preschool celebration night was "We're off to Kindergarten, yes we are. We are off to kindergarten yes we are. And we won't be here in preschool anymore..." We all LOVED her preschool. I was amazed by her teacher and the communication we had with her. I loved the organization of her folder and how much was brought home to tell us about her day. Being a peer model was the perfect thing for Addilyn. She is a true nurturer, helper, and just an all around little mommy (with a side of bossy). Her teachers did say she was never bossy at school and was always appropriately helping others know where to go or how to do a certain activity. Addilyn still sees friends from school and runs up to say hi to them. She's gained so much confidence this year-especially with her peers-it's amazing to see!! 

Preschool ended on a Thursday. 
Monday we were here. At her Elementary school. For 'Kamp Kindergarten' for the month of June.
 I can't say I was excited about sending her-I was looking forward to those two whole months at home together. But she desperately wanted to go and was so excited with the idea of "Starting kindergarten early!" we sent her. The first day there was a bit of a bus incident (they put her on the bus while her daddy was sitting in the car rider line to pick her up) and all around disorganization. But, it got better throughout the week as she got more exhausted. All day everyday school is a super hard transition.  One that we're all struggling with. Josiah spent the first few days wandering around a little bit like a lost puppy dog just asking when we could go get Addilyn. She does seem to enjoy it while she's there-although she's made sure we know she prefers her small preschool class to her big kindergarten class and that we are welcome to pick her up early any day we want to.  Praying the transition eases a bit and we can fit lots of summer fun into July! 


San Antonio

A few weeks ago, we went to San Antonio to visit Derrick's family, meet Mathias, and celebrate his second birthday!! We've been dreaming of meeting him since we saw that referral picture a year ago-so glad we finally got to!! 

Very early flight

Daddy taking us to one of his favorite SA restaurants. Bill Miller


All of us together. Next time we're all together-there will be six kids!! Gideon will be home (prayerfully!) and Candace and Justin are having a baby! So excited for lots of cousins!

We all had an awesome time meeting Mathias. 

I couldn't find a good pic of Mathias and Josiah...they were ALWAYS moving. This is as good as it got. But, their little personalities are pretty similar-they got along great!


Gideon's Quilt

Last week we got news that our new agency, America World, had completed their investigation of Gideon's paperwork/story/everything and found that he does indeed need to be adopted. I've spent so much of the last few weeks begging God to find his birth family. That they could care for him and give him the love he deserves. And as much as we really truly desired that outcome - that he would stay in Ethiopia with his birth family - that is not what he needs.

He needs a family.

And we get to be that family.

I wish I could explain just how huge of a miracle this is. It is AMAZING that the Ethiopian and United States governments decided that we could continue through two specific agencies. Then, it was very clear we would only be allowed to continue IF those agencies found our cases were ethical and IF our children were truly adoptable through their own investigations.


Well, that IF is no longer an IF. It's a yes. Only God. Only. Him.

With that yes came pictures from the transition house where Gideon now is. We saw our boy. Saw his sweet face. His hands holding toys and his sweet eyes looking up at us. We also were given a developmental update on our boy. He's drinking bottles and eating solid food. He's playing with toys. And on that form...his last name was Abell. And tears came. Praising Him as much as we could. He gets to be ours.

Then we got the new forms that we need to fill out to accept a referral from a new agency. Because they took his case on as their own, Friday was like our second referral day and it was filled with all the joy the first referral day should have been. We texted pictures to our family immediately. I sat in amazement just staring at his pictures memorizing them, marveling at his perfection, trying to learn a little more about him in each one. Just like I should have that first time. I didn't cry tears of fear this time. We didn't keep it to ourselves and the doctor while we tried to figure it out. We cried tears of pure joy and told many. I couldn't wait to show pictures to people at church or text pictures to family throughout the weekend. We were just amazed at this gift we were given.

With a referral, there is paperwork to be filled out and a significant 'referral fee' to be paid. We told few about this. After losing all of our money and donations through our previous agency, we certainly don't have this. We also hate HATE the idea of asking for more help. We are sick about the money we lost before. We are still so very sorry. But, there have been many people who have read through the lines. They know we probably are going to owe money and they have been very vocal about wanting to help. Wanting us to ask. So, here it goes. We owe a LOT of money this week. We need help.

Some very close friends have agreed to help us out with this. When Addilyn and Josiah were babies, Ben and Delane designed and made us brightly colored quilts for each of them. These quilts have been very special to us. It meant so much that Delane would spend all that time to create something unique for each of our kids. So, we asked them to consider making one for Gideon and then we could have each square of the quilt sponsored by someone in efforts to help fundraising and have something that would mean so much to all of us.


So, we're starting a fundraiser called ...

It works like this. By donating and supporting our adoption of Gideon, you will be helping put the quilt together. Different size sections will be based on different donation amounts.  Each person or family that sponsors this quilt will have their name on their section of the quilt so we (and Gideon) can see and be continually grateful for each of you as we're playing and snuggling with the quilt. 


Quilt Section SIZE Breakdown:
$20 - $100   = A Section - name on quilt
$100 - $500  = B Section - name w/option to write short message to Gideon on quilt - approx. 70 characters long (half-tweet length)
$500 & above = C Section - name w/option to write longer message to Gideon on quilt - approx. 140 characters long (full-tweet length)
(for those who wish to write a message, we will contact you at a later date regarding your message) 

2 Ways You Can DONATE 
(through the Eternal Family Program with our agency)

1) Mail a Check - Click HERE for instructions and to download a form to mail with your check.
2) ONLINE - Click HERE and fill out the "Support a Family. Donate Today" box on the right. Put our names in the Designated Family Fund. 


Our goal through this fundraiser is to raise at least $10,000 within the next week that is needed for us to take our next step in the adoption.  To bring Gideon home as soon as we possibly can.  

This goal seems quite extreme to us.  But so did the $30,000 goal that God "somehow" provided last year through literally hundreds of people. So does the very idea we get to be his family. 

This goal seems unimaginable.  But "coincidentally" we read in our devotion this morning that God is "... able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us ..." - all for His glory.  

This goal seems impossible.  Even a little bit reckless.  But God is teaching us to be OK with that.



Family Pictures

When the news of our agency being corrupt broke and our adoption hung the balance, a sweet friend said she really wanted to help. She wanted to start a photography business on the side and needed to create more of a portfolio-so she graciously had a mini-session photography fundraiser for us and also took some family pictures for us. I really can't begin to tell you how much this means to me. When she offered to do this, I had no idea what would come next and I certainly did not believe it would include any hope of continuing with adoption. But it's amazing how God puts hope where there isn't any. He strengths us in the littlest of ways. This friend already allows me to watch her little girl everyday-adding to the 'adoption fund' weekly. The idea that she would go out of her way to find another way to help when she didn't even know what she was helping with at the time-amazing. When she asked if she could raise some money for us-I told her I didn't even know what it would be for. "It doesn't matter. I just want to help." I want to be more like that. See a need and help. Immediately. Maybe before others even realize there is a need. That mini-session paid over half of our private investigator fees. Just because. And, we got some pretty cute pictures too. 

If you're in the Kansas City area, look up Just B Photography for some great pictures. It was even during nap time and she did great with our kids!